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Provo • First, there was the Welcome-to-the-WCC blowout. Then came the Meltdown at the Marriott, followed by the Dellavedagger. Defense was the Gaels' calling card in the most recent matchup.
Four times BYU has tangled with Saint Mary's since the Cougars joined the West Coast Conference back in 2011, and four times the Gaels have prevailed. All four were memorable, if not competitive, the last two closer than the first two.
Will the narrative change Saturday when BYU attempts to get a win over the only team in the WCC it has yet to defeat in two-plus seasons?
It's a huge game for both teams, seeing as how Saint Mary's (6-3, 16-6) fell 61-43 at San Diego on Thursday night to lose its grip on second place in the WCC and fall farther behind league-leading Gonzaga; and how BYU (6-4, 14-9) is desperately trying to re-establish itself as a league power.
"We all know how Saint Mary's plays," BYU coach Dave Rose said Thursday after the Cougars rolled past Pacific 88-78 at the Marriott Center. "It is a really well-coached, physical, disciplined team. So hopefully we are prepared and ready to go."
On paper, the Cougars would seem to have most of the advantages in this one. They are at home, Saint Mary's had to travel Friday after scoring a season-low 43 points against the Toreros, and Cougar guard Tyler Haws is the hottest scorer in the country, having scored 109 points in his last three games.
Most helpful of all, from BYU's perspective, is the fact that Matthew Dellavedova is a member of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and can't destroy the Cougars like he did in 2012 and 2013. Delly's dagger, the running 3-pointer from well beyond the arc that just beat the buzzer, gave SMC a 70-69 win over BYU in a late-night game last year at the Marriott Center.
The Gaels have good balance this year all five starters average in double figures but they still have a blossoming superstar in 6-foot-9 junior forward Brad Waldow. He's averaging 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game to lead his team in both categories.
"We know the challenge that is ahead of us," Haws said. "It is going to be a physical game, probably a lot more physical than [the game against Pacific]. It is going to be a fun environment to play in, but we have to play defense, figure out how to stop them, and get them out of their comfort zone, what they like to do."
The atmosphere was electric for SMC's first visit to the MC in 2012, as a sell-out crowd of 22,700 packed the largest on-campus arena in the country. But the Gaels routed the Cougars 80-66 and the scene turned ugly late when a few fans threw paper cups on the floor.
SMC pulled off a 96-82 shellacking in Moraga in BYU's first game in the WCC; Last February, the Gaels made it four straight by holding the Cougars to a season-low 57 points while scoring 64 at McKeon Pavilion.
"There are a lot of guys who don't know what the challenge is," Rose said. "That is what we will try to prepare them for here in a real short period of time."
Saint Mary'sat BYU
O At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • Saturday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
Radio • 1160 AM,102.7 FM
Records • BYU 14-9, 6-4 WCC; Saint Mary's 16-6, 6-3
Series history • BYU leads, 8-6
Last meeting • Saint Mary's 64, BYU 57 (Feb. 21, 2013)
BYU vs. Saint Mary's in WCC
Date Location Result Attendance
Dec. 29, 2011 Moraga, Calif. Saint Mary's 96, BYU 82 3,500
Jan. 28, 2012 Provo Saint Mary's 80, BYU 66 22,700
Jan. 16, 2013 Provo Saint Mary's 70, BYU 69 14,857
Feb. 21, 2013 Moraga, Calif. Saint Mary's 64, BYU 57 3,500